Study reveals nearly 20% of New Yorkers are not online; quality, affordability are biggest barriers.

More than half a billion city-dwellers across eight of the world’s richest countries are not online, with quality and affordability the biggest barriers, it emerged on Tuesday.

A survey of Brazil, China, Germany, India, Japan, Russia, the U.K. and the U.S. carried out by IHS Markit on behalf of the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA), found that IT literacy levels, and a general lack of awareness of the benefits of being online are also still barriers to adoption, even in more advanced economies.

"The issue of the urban unconnected is of critical importance to economies and societies," said WBA CEO Shrikant Shenwai, who called for Internet access to be recognised as a human right. "It’s vital that…all stakeholders involved in the provision of broadband work together to make this happen."

According to the research, 1.75 billion people living in these eight countries are offline, 34% – 595 million – of whom reside in major urban centres.

Of the five major cities covered in the survey, Sao Paulo in Brazil, and India’s capital Delhi, have the highest proportion of unconnected citizens: 36% and 29% respectively. 19% of people in New York City don’t have the Internet, compared to 17% of people living in Moscow. London is the most connected city, with just 7% of the population not online.

The study was released to mark World WiFi Day. Launched by the WBA in 2016, it aims to drive awareness of the digital divide and accelerate the rollout of affordable connectivity, putting WiFi at the centre of that effort.

"WiFi is playing an instrumental role in helping cities bring wider and more affordable connectivity to its citizens," Shenwai said.